When one door closes, another opens
Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc. adjust for snow days
Friday, February 07, 2014 10:00 AM
Two after-school organizations for children - Girls Inc. of Jefferson County and the Lide White Boys and Girls Club - have been opening early each morning to help parents and kids deal with the snow-day dilemma of what to do when school's out.
SNOW-DAY ACTIVITIES: Landon Tharp, 7, plays foosball at the Lide White Boys and Girls Club on Thursday. Landon, a student at E.O. Muncie Elementary School, and other students from the Courierarea have another day off today, requiring the Boys and Girls Club and Girls Inc. to adjust their schedules to provide a place for children to spend the day when they’re not in school due to snow days. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
The numbers are a far cry from summer attendance, but the organizations' staffs are tasked with planning a day's worth of activities during the snow days.
Girls Inc. opens at 6:30 a.m. on snow days - nearly eight hours earlier than usual, program director Carly Pruitt said. The center normally opens at 2 p.m. during school days.
"We've been very busy," she said.
Still, the winter weather keeps several girls home because of road conditions.
"It's definitely lower than a normal day," she said, noting average attendance is around 60 girls for the organization's after-school programs. About 20 girls attend the center for snow-day activities.
Still, staff members work to make the most of the girls' time on their days away from school with planned activities.
Girls have worked on several arts and crafts activities, including cards for hospital patients for the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday.
Other indoor activities, like games, painting and creating Play-doh sculptures, also have helped area children pass the time.
"We've been getting a little more messy than usual," Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the girls had been going outside to the playground for short periods of time on the snow days, but the ice has kept everyone inside during the recent bout of winter weather.
The staff at Girls Inc. plans ahead for school snow days, Pruitt said, usually months before winter weather is expected.
"We have a closet full of snow-day activities," she said.
Yet even with the organization's advanced planning, this winter has provided more snow days than anyone expected.
Ray Black, executive director of the Lide White Boys & Girls Club, said the winter weather has kept staff members on their toes.
School closings, two-hour delays and early departures each affect how the club operates.
"You just have to adapt," Black said. "It's a little bit different. The staff, instead of doing three-hour shifts, do six-hour shifts or sometimes longer."
Black said the Boys & Girls club hosts about 300 children from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on a normal day, but on a snow day, it sees between 40 and 50 children from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On days when schools call two-hour delays, the club can't drive children to school in the morning if the school is too far from its facility, such as Rykers Ridge or Southwestern elementary schools.
On Tuesday, schools released students early because of impending threats of snow and ice.
"I started calling staff and opened up early that day. I think we opened about 12:30," Black said. "It has an unorganized feel when it's not your regular day-to-day."
During snow days, Black said the club tries to transition its activities as close to a summer schedule as possible.
"Except in the summer you can go outside," he said. "We'd take them to the swimming pool, we'd go on a hike or take them to the movies. We can't do that. That's just not available."
Black said the staff does its best to plan games and offer as many activities as it can. During the week, the club has played basketball, dodgeball and kickball.
"We're playing knee-football on wrestling mats today," Black said.
Landon Tharp, a seven-year-old E.O. Muncie student, said he attends the Boys and Girls Club after school and on some snow days.
"We can play games and there's a movie room," Landon said in between foosball games with his friends.
The facility also has a gymnasium, computer room, Wii games and board games to keep the kids busy.
"We try to mix it up," Black said.
Several area schools announced closings or delays for today. Madison Consolidated and Carroll County schools are closed again today. Prince of Peace, Southwestern and Switzerland County schools are on two-hour delays.